Growing up, knowing right from wrong seemed very obvious for most of us. Knowing when to go to bed, or knowing which foods to eat, but what about knowing which President to Vote for? More importantly knowing if we should vote or not. To some of us, it’s obvious to use our right to vote. We’ve heard and seen the history of the many trials African Americans and other minorities had to go through just to be able to register to vote, but there are still a few barriers that stops people from voting
Hundreds of thousands of nonvoters would vote if they could. Voters need identification to vote in 36 states, which means the 21 million Americans who don’t have government-issued photo ID are at risk of missing out. Financial barriers, lack of access to transportation and limited information can make it difficult for older people, people of color and low-income people to obtain an ID.
Former and current prisoners convicted of felonies are another group of people who are often disenfranchised during elections, especially if they are African American. Maine and Vermont are the only states that do not prohibit those convicted of felonies from voting, even when they are in prison.
The Electoral College system, a body of electors founded by the US constitution, also bars millions of residents who live in US territories including Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico from voting in general elections, even though presidents’ decisions influence their lives.
Sunday is the most common voting day around the world, except in the US. Election Day falls on Tuesdays in the country and is not a federal holiday, presenting a dilemma for many workers who don’t get paid time off to go to a polling place and wait in line. While early voting and mail-in voting gives citizens more flexibility, not all states offer these options yet.
The Republican and Democratic parties are the two largest political parties in the US. The 7% of citizens who don’t support either and are registered as independent tend to be less politically engaged. They also can’t vote for a presidential candidate in the primary election.
As many as 15% of registered voters reported that they didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election because they didn’t believe their vote would make a difference, according to Census Bureau data.They found that half of the participants didn’t bother to research the election because they didn’t think their vote impacted the government, even though voting is one of the few ways for citizens to push forward policies they support.
The many obstacles citizens face to vote can be discouraging, but when people don’t vote, they are silenced. With enough preparation and information, voting can help citizens play an important role in shaping the world in which they want to live.
Najah Hendricks is a fourth-year Social Work major, Youth Empowerment & Urban Studies Minor. Nh871270@wcupa.